I may have enjoyed my Christmas a little too much. Maybe you did, too? Even so, there’s still time to add to that merriment because…
When I first moved to altitude, everyone seemed to talk about the changes needed to cook here. There were lots of suggestions about baking particularly (use less yeast and sugar–more salt for bread), but also about cooking anything at all (cook longer and with more liquid) and I paid attention. To be sure, some baking required a bit of adjustment — a few things never did come around — but the biggest hurdle was lack of humidity. Leave a piece of bread on the counter for a few minutes (say the phone rang when you were about to make a sandwich) and you’d return to dry bread–as if you left it out all night in Chicago or were drying bread for stuffing in Miami. Bake cookies, leave them to cool on the rack a couple of hours instead of a couple of minutes, and you’d have rocks. All Colorado cookies are biscotti is how I look at it. Cookies must be eaten, stored in very tightly-sealed containers, and/or frozen as soon as they’re cool. More than one Colorado baker has just thrown in the towel at Christmas. You simply can’t eat them before they’re stale. My method is to freeze every batch, taking out just the number of cookies you’ll eat — or give away– at one sitting. It works, but you need a big freezer –or a freezing garage– if you’re a happy baker in December.
Aside: There are those that will tell you it’s more attitude than altitude. I might agree, though I beat an extra egg into my corn and tea breads and I always bake with extra-large eggs no matter what. I also cut the amount of sugar in many baked goods–even things like a mashed sweet potato casserole. Continue reading
While I seldom blog recipes from other places, this easy chicken stew from Bon Appétit is luscious and makes a quick change from my typical winter beef or lamb stews. I’ve made it a time or two for friends, fixing it mostly beforehand, adding the cream right before serving. A scoop of rice and some fresh, sauteéd spinach make for a healthier and well-rounded meal and even lowers the price per serving. However, not to fear: this recipe uses inexpensive chicken thighs to start with.
My kitchen is still a Christmas kitchen--tins full of cookies, crocks full of nuts. Leftovers in the frig. Christmas dishes in the cupboard. On and on. I’m really still in holiday mode and am not back to a regular routine of grocery shopping, cooking, writing, blogging, choir rehearsals, etc. It is only the tenth day of Christmas (10 Lords-a-leaping!) and I celebrate all twelve days of Christmas plus Epiphany. Come Sunday night (January 6–Epiphany), you’ll find a table full of people at my house, still decorated, come to have one last, light Christmas romp complete with games.
Monday morning will find me contemplating what will, by then, look like a very old Christmas mess, putting it all away and doing a thorough clean before contemplating returning to work on the soup book. Until then, I’m cooking quick meals, heating big pots of soup or bolognese I froze earlier in the season, ordering pizza, or hitting favorite restaurants while my daughter’s home. After all, a kid, even a 25-year-old one, at home for the holidays likes to have their favorites. And Mom, Mom’s a bit tired of cooking. I can’t believe I said it, but it’s true. (Thank God for the freezer.)
While you’re putting away your own holiday mess, cook up this fast stew and see if it doesn’t become one of your favorites. It’s made mostly from food you might already keep in the larder or freezer (I always have boneless chicken thighs for quick soups.) and if you don’t have the leeks, substitute onions. If you’re looking for lighter meals, you might try substituting non-fat evaporated milk, half and half, or a lower-fat milk for the cream. Try this:
chicken and carrot stew from Bon Appétit
4 servings (perhaps 6 if you add the rice and spinach)
Interested in entering a bread recipe contest?
Remember that your original bread recipes must be submitted via the online entry form by Jan. 31. Please, be sure to include King Arthur Flour and Fleischmann’s Yeast in your ingredients list! Recipes that do not include these two ingredients will be disqualified! Click on the link to read the rules.
Enter by January 31, 2013 http://www.americasbreadbasket.com/nfob
Sing a new song,
I don’t know if Friday Night “Dinner and a Movie” is still on. Last time I tuned in, it offered decent film viewing as well as little vignettes and cooking segments presented by talented folk. The music was the late 40’s jump tune (Louis Thomas Jordan), “Beans and Cornbread!” Loved it. I don’t know what it is about the phrase… Once you hear it, you just start walking around going, “Beans and cornbread uh uh uh…Beans and cornbread…” The “uh uh uh” is the tenor sax.
I raised my kids on bean soup and corn bread (or plain old beans and cornbread), though I don’t think I knew the tune back then… It’s a good tune!! And I still make it a couple of times a season. Simply put, we’re always glad to get it. It’s inexpensive, fairly healthy, and goes a long way. Dried beans have a long history south and north of the Mason-Dixon line and both Dave’s mom and my mom made big pots to feed their families. So it’s comfort food for both of us. In fact, the first meal I had at Dave’s house when we were dating was a pot of ham and beans. (Crock-pot fare was big in the mid-70’s.) He’s quick to remind me that in his house, beans were always served with ketchup. In my house, ketchup with beans would have been anathema. Yuck. Hot sauce, yes. Vinegar with hot peppers, probably. Ketchup, no.
|This is a ham hock from our little corner store, Widmer’s.|
Beans are a good reason to cook a ham; you’ll have the ham bone. No ham bone? Buy a ham hock or two as well as a ham steak if you like a lot of meat. Have a great butcher? Have him/her cut that big ham hock in half for you. You’ll only need half. Wrap the other half well in foil and freeze for up to two months.
But there are beans and there are beans. There’s cornbread and there’s cornbread. You can make all kinds… Here’s another version I offered on Dinner Place last spring:
Just for grins and giggles, let’s say you just want to make plain old very yummy bean soup. You’d like to know how to make a truly tasty cast iron pan of corn bread. You can. You can scratch that itch for a fine, old-fashioned meal. Even if years ago you did do the Elvis sneer– or squint and whistle in through your teeth when you knew there were beans for supper. My guess is you don’t do that any more. In fact, when you’re on a road trip, you may pull in to Cracker Barrel for just such a lunch.
And, uh, oh, by the way, if you invite friends to share this sumptuous repast and throw in a couple of bottles of Côtes du Rhône (choose an inexpensive version of this dry French red blend)…you’ll be at the top of the heap with them for your “rustic” choice in dinner fare. Pick up a baguette to add to the bread basket. A few olives in a bowl for starters. Sounds like a good New Year’s Day plan.
beans and cornbread alyce style
bean soup (made in two stages–broth/beans and soup)
makes 10 – 12 servings
First the broth and cooking the beans half-way:
1# dried white or navy beans, rinsed well, picked over and soaked overnight or quick-soaked*
1 Smoked ham bone or smoked ham hock
6 cups chicken stock
3 quarts water (or more as needed to keep beans cooking freely)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, cut in half
1 stalk celery
10 sprigs fresh parsley and 2 large sprigs thyme tied in a bundle**
4 drops hot sauce (or to taste)
*You do not have to soak beans contrary to common wisdom. They will, however, cook more evenly and (rumor has it) be less gassy if you do soak them. Place the cleaned and sorted beans in the pot with water just to cover overnight. Or for quick soak: place cleaned and sorted beans in pot just barely covered with water and bring to a boil for two minutes. Turn heat off, cover pot, and let sit one hour before making soup. Discard soaking liquid for either method.
**Or use just the parsley tied and add 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Add all of the broth ingredients to a large (10-12 quart) stock pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer. Let cook about an hour or until beans are just beginning to soften. Take out ham hock or bone and cool a bit. Remove any usable meat, chop, and return to pot. Discard bone. Remove herb bundle and discard. Remove large pieces of vegetables, cool briefly and chop; return to pot. Don’t take out the bay leaves. Whoever gets them has good luck. Continue below at “Make the Soup.”
Second, make the soup:
2 cups ham cut into half-inch pieces
3 tablespoons tomato paste (or 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes)
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup each chopped onion and carrots
Bring the pot of soup to a boil. Reduce heat to a healthy simmer and cook another 1-2 hours until beans and all vegetables are tender. (The time will depend somewhat on how high you have the heat, how done the beans already were, etc.) Add water, if needed, to ensure vegetables are all cooking very freely in liquid. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. If you’d like a thicker soup, remove two cups of beans and vegetables and mash or puree in the food processor. Return mashed vegetables to pot and taste again for seasoning. Serve hot with corn bread, butter, and honey. Store cooled leftovers well-covered in the refrigerator three days or in the freezer for up to six months.
alyce’s corn bread
makes one 9″inch cast iron pan (can use 9″ baking pan if necessary)
two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood
|Came home from a trip to find someone had (we guess) a bit too much holiday eggnog and ran our fence down. Sad.|
|Back from the groomer. A bit embarrassed by the regalia. Cute babies, HUH?!|
Better late than never: a little of the Thanksgiving baking above and below:
|Maple-Bourbon Pecan Pie|
|Cranberry-Apple Tart with Almond Paste Crust|
|Pour the pumpkin mixture into a pie plate on a baking sheet that’s already in the oven.|
|C is for Cherry|
|My One-Minute (microwave) Pumpkin Custards made into tiny pies with an Anna’s Ginger Thin.|
Sing a new song; make a pot of beans,
|Hot Spiced Cider with or without Rum (Pum Pum Pum)|
An afternoon open house is the perfect party … No main course. Everyone’s gone by dinner time… And folks show up because other commitments are for evening. Few dishes to wash. Food that’s easy to prepare ahead. Your goal: everything out and ready for guests to help themselves. Your reward: To be able to enter your own party!
|Ginger cookies, Chocolate Snowballs, Date bars–Made ahead and frozen|
A couple of perfect festive drinks (Sparkler and Hot Cider), as well as a pot of strong coffee and some thick cream (for those who must dunk cookies or are heading to a serious evening party), make set-up much easier than a cocktail or dinner party. People come dressed comfortably. Yes.
|A festive few dishes and a candle or two. Not much more needed.|
Your best cookies, a couple of great nibbles…Always vegetables…A bit of cheese-
|Lots of vegetables–some fresh, some grilled. Herb Garlic Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts|
Something they’ll remember later…like my taste-like-jelly-filled-donut shortbread sandwiches:
|Crowded is ok. They’ll come and go.|
All set up ahead leaves time for visiting and listening to the great Christmas playlist you put together for the party. Everything from Revels to Tony Bennett to Harry Connick, Jr. to Cambridge Singers.
Something filling for those who skipped lunch. Here, a great tapenade. Don’t skimp on the olives; buy the best you can find. Grill your sliced baguette on the stove if it’s too cold outside.
|Spicy Tapenade with Crostini|
Spanish Cava is a lovely, inexpensive sparkler. Whatever’s leftover can be used for New Year’s or for
mimosas for brunch. There’s usually a discount if you buy a case. Think ahead.
|Cava and Cranberries. Back-up bottles all chilled in the frig.|
|Leave flutes set up with cranberries and folks will pour the sparkler over them.|
|David Lebovitz famous Pretzel and Nut Mix. No Chex Mix needed.|
Something crunchy is a must. Nuts, pretzels, chips…for the salty people.
My take on Eli Zabar’s shortbread recipe..Bittersweet chocolate and sea salt.. I like Valrhona chocolate for dipping, but could only find Callebaut locally this year. Makes excellent hot chocolate, too, by the way if you’ve any leftover from dipping. Valrhona is French chocolate; Callebaut is made in many places, but is basically Belgian-French in origin.
*Hot Cider with or without Rum (I leave the rum plainly marked in a pitcher on counter.)
*Pot of strong coffee and Hot Water for tea. The best cream you can find. Lemon, sugar.
*Cava (or your favorite bubbly)–Add a couple of fresh cranberries to the $1. glasses
*Cookies–4 of your favorites. Homemade or beg from friends-even buy at great bakery.
*Garlicky Rosemary Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts and Lots of Veggies (Recipe below)
*Spicy Tapenade and Crostini (Grilled Bread) – Recipe Below
*Cranberry Almond Bars with Tangerine —You must have chocolate. Make it yourself.
*Alyce’s Go Nuts! Salty, hot, and sweet pecans. Great protein.
*David Lebovitz Pretzel and Nut Mix–gotta have something that crunches.
Herb Garlic Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts
12 oz goat’s cheese (chevre), softened
32 oz (4 c) ricotta cheese
Zest of one lemon
Hot sauce- a few drops
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
2T fresh dill, minced (Can choose just one herb if you like.)
2T fresh basil chiffonade
2T fresh chives, minced
1T fresh thyme, chopped (plus a few sprigs for garnish)
1T fresh Rosemary, finely minced
1/2 t coarsely ground black pepper (or more to taste)
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup of pine nuts
1/4 cup sweet red pepper, diced
Place all ingredients except garnishes in the food processor and pulse until well-blended. Taste and readjust seasoning. If making the day before, the garlic will settle down a lot overnight in the frig. Store in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Spoon into serving bowl and garnish with pine nuts, peppers, and sprigs of rosemary Serve with fresh vegetables or crackers. If too thick, add a few drops of milk and stir well before serving.
Spicy Tapenade (Basic recipe courtesy Tyler Florence)
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
This week, we’re buying a few small gifts, making a vat of barbequed brisket, going to a choir party, taking some friends out to dinner and to a Rose Ensemble concert, baking a manger scene (yes!) and stollen, watching every Christmas movie we can, and picking up my sister at the airport. Emily and I are getting our hair done together tomorrow, so we’ll be all cleaned up for the whole deal. Work is slowing down, though I still have a couple of pieces to rehearse and direct. Probably need to get that Rutter out and practice! Dave’s week will be intense and then crawl, alternately….as co-workers world-wide try to get ready for Dell’s week-long break, but still make time for Christmas parties.
We’ll be at church on Christmas Eve, of course…it’s my favorite service. If there’s time, we’ll stop by a couple of open houses, but we’ll come home to cookies and eggnog in the wee early hours of Christmas morning and fall into bed to listen for the sleigh bells.
Christmas Day is a different story:
|Last year’s Christmas Day rolled flank steak with roasted tomatoes.|
|Christmas Day. Toys, movies, the pups.|
|Gabby and Tuck have been good all year, but they’re still worried there’ll be nothing in their stockings.
Maybe there are others with the same fears….
|courtesy Share Our Strength|
Want to feed some kids before the end of 2011?
With your help this holiday season, we can connect hungry children with nutritious meals all year long! Every $1 you donate to Share Our Strength helps connect a child with up to 10 meals. Through December 31, our No Kid Hungry Partners are matching the first $500,000 donated during the holiday season. Click here to donate.
Merry Days to you! Do the fun things.
|Late afternoon, 12/30/2010|
When it’s nice and cold,
I can hold my baby closer to me–
and collect the kisses that are due me.
I love the winter weather
’cause I’ve got my love to keep me warm….
Today, Emi and I ran out to get a video game, hit Whole Foods and King Sooper’s. In the middle, we just had to have lunch together. As we sat by the window of the restaurant, I looked outside and said, “We’ve got to get home.” There’s just this look in the skies and about the air when all hell’s about to break loose. The snow began to fly as we drove south, but it let up by the time we got to the grocery store. I ran in the liquor store to grab a little Cotes du Rhone to round off the bean soup and wienies for dinner, while she got started on the grocery list. Five minutes later, I walked in to find no carts at all. I knew we were in trouble. It was us and everybody else in Colorado Springs. All at King Sooper’s. Together. The bread aisle was slim indeed and I was thanking God I got my bread earlier at Great Harvest. Milk? Same story, but thanks be I only needed heavy cream for a horseradish sauce for a friend’s New Year’s Eve tenderloin. The lines were 6 deep, but all of registers were open. Thanks for good planning, store manager. Emi said, “This is how the store where I live is all the time… and people are not happy in line. No one talks or smiles. New Jersey, ugh.” I seldom wait for more than one or two people in front of me; often I’m first. Wow.
By the time we got out to the car, visibility was zero. Snow was flying in all directions, mostly sideways. The wind had picked up to an amazing pitch and the temperature had dropped ten degrees. Two inches of snow were on the ground and it was a freezing mess to just open the trunk door and throw the bags in. We felt our way home behind a crawling car in front of us and were very grateful to see the little grey, wooden house coming up on the right…finally. It was about 2pm and it was obvious it would be dark early, which it is.
Thanks, God, for a warm house, heat, hot water, loving family, a working stove (where the bean soup bubbles) and a lovely fireplace where we’ll roast wienies tonight. Why not?
If you don’t cook in the fireplace, try it sometime. Fun, fun. This pic if one I took last spring when the menu was the same as tonight.
Meantime, I thought I’d leave you with a great New Year’s Eve dinner that you might really like to make–either now or later. But I think it’d be a wonderful celebration for 6-8. Not a tenderloin and not the price, this time-taking (yes) prep is made with flank steak. Cool thing is, it braises slowly in the oven while you share a bubbly or two with your friends and put your feet up on the coffee table. Once the prep’s done, the work is nearly done.
Here’s what it looks like from nearly the beginning to end…. I like some skinny green beans cooked in the microwave, a great baguette, and some fresh pasta with it. You could make do with a salad and bread.
Ultimate Beef Braciole (Tyler Florence)-—Alyce’s altitude/seasoning adjustments in italics
Note: do not try and get this tender in the amount of time allotted if you’re at altitude
To make the Braciole: Toast the panko bread crumbs in a dry skillet with a little olive oil over low heat, until golden. Add to a large mixing bowl along with the anchovy, garlic, bocconcini, red peppers, parsley, a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper, to taste. Stir together until well combined.
Set the flank steak on a piece of plastic wrap. Make a deep horizontal slice along the steak almost all the way through and fan open like a book. Lay another piece of plastic wrap on top. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, gently flatten the steak until about 1/2-inch thick; take care not to tear. Discard the top sheet of plastic wrap; rub the surface with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spread the stuffing evenly over the meat, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Arrange the eggs lengthwise down the center of the meat and roll up like a jelly roll log, using the plastic wrap as support. Tie the roll with kitchen twine in 4 to 5 places to secure – this will help hold the shape and keep the filling from falling out. Season outside of roll very well indeed with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put a roasting pan across 2 burners and heat over medium heat. Add a 3-count of olive oil and add the thyme and garlic. Cook for about a minute until fragrant. Carefully add the braciole and sear until evenly browned all over, approximately 2 minutes each side.
Add the sliced onions and bay leaves, then stir in the beef broth to deglaze. Add the canned tomatoes over the top, then nestle in the whole vine tomatoes around the braciole. Bring to a simmer, then cover with foil and put in the oven to braise for 45 to 60 minutes. Add 20-30 minutes if at altitude…serve when tender. When done, remove the foil and remove the braciole to a carving board to rest. Carefully remove the whole vine tomatoes, with a slotted spoon, to a plate. Let the sauce cool for about 5 minutes. Discard the thyme stems and bay leaf, then add the sauce to a blender and puree. Pour the sauce back into the pan and set over medium heat to bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add the balsamic vinegar. Remove the kitchen twine from the beef and cut into 1-inch thick “pin-wheel” slices. Arrange the slices on a platter and arrange the whole vine tomatoes around the beef. Pour the sauce over the top, garnish with
chopped parsley and serve.
Haricots Verts with Lemon
1.5 # haricots verts
1 t freshly grated lemon rind
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large, microwave proof bowl, place beans with 1/4 cup water. Cover tightly and cook in microwave at full power for about five minutes. Test for doneness. Drain and place in serving bowl. Dust with lemon rind, salt and pepper to taste.
Here in the Springs, I buy pasta (linguine for this) at Mollica’s on Garden of the Gods. Two pounds for 8 people is plenty and will cost you about $11. Call ahead to make sure they have some; you can order some a few days ahead to make sure. Bring 10 qts of water, well salted and peppered, to a boil and gently place raw pasta into the water… you’ll need to carefully separate the strands of linguine. Cook until al dente…perhaps five or six minutes. Remove from water or drain and, after placing in a serving bowl, add 1T olive oil and 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley.
We liked a Barbera ($) or a Barolo ($$) with this. Vintages Wine on Tejon has some lovely choices.
Get your baguette at Marigold or La Baguette.
I like a little sparkler and some spiced nuts…not much more. This is a big meal. Gruet (New Mexico) makes a sweet sparkler that’s not overly priced and is nearly local. Otherwise, grab some prosecco and be glad.
Stay warm, be happy in 2011. You will be if you eat this for New Year’s Eve.
If you live in the Springs, I’m thinking you should have bought New Year’s Eve dinner already.
Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. ~Doug Larson
Living on the edge of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, I’ve seen snow every month of the year. Sounds impossible to most folks, but it often warms up for the many false springs (and sometimes summers) we love and then turns stormy bitter overnight. July 4 can bring mountain snow, though probably not down here in the Springs. We once sat through an outdoor July concert in Woodland Park until we couldn’t stand the blowing snow anymore and ran down the hill to McDonald’s for coffee. (Not a lot of choices.) We never put away our jeans and sweatshirts and we keep a coat, a candle with matches, a bottle of water, and a chocolate bar in the car 365 days a year. You’ve heard this tale.
Still, like most Americans, we dream of spring in March, and hey, we sometimes get a little. It was 65 the other day and, inside the house it was above 70. Turned the oven on to bake bread (Irish Soda, of course) and the kitchen was soon 75. Two days later, it snowed all day long and we were building fires, warming up soup, and snuggling our toes inside wool socks. Ah, Colorado: no water and weird weather. Not always a good combination. Praise God for central heat and gas stoves and food trucked in to places where it can’t be grown. I guess?
Friday night, as I set the table and lit the candles, I knew I had a light meal that needed either an appetizer or dessert. As I’m currently cutting my caloric intake by 25% a day in a concerted effort to seek health, I decided on a vegetable appetizer. A pound of asparagus bored to death in the frig had a little bit to do with it; I’ll give that to you. I never tire of grilled asparagus (or as my good friend Sue says, “I’d pay anything for it.”) and, given the time constraints (dinner was almost done and Dave had begun the music), grilled sounded good. I promise I won’t blog asparagus anymore this spring. (Fingers crossed.)
When I shot this pic, I realized I probably didn’t even need to do it. No doubt there were multiple shots of grilled asparagus stored on the computer. Finding them (my photos need organizing pretty badly) was another story. I clicked two times and above you see one of those. Gives you an idea of my skill level.
These were skiiiiiiiiiiiinneee asparagus (doesn’t equate with good or tender), so I knew they wouldn’t take long to grill, and, while I like them almost done, I don’t want them limp. Time to think of a dip, a sauce, a topping, a …whatever. I’m crazy about fresh lemon squeezed over asparagus; it’s one of my favorite things. Kinda old, though, Alyce. What else? Some finely chopped peppered cashews? Hmmm. Getting better. What about salsa? Atypical. What about salsa and Greek yogurt? Hepped up with garlic?
Sounding better all the time and was quick as spit.
Here’s how I did it:
Grilled Asparagus with Tex-Mex Dip
1# fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed
1T olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 c plain, non-fat Greek Yogurt (or any plain yogurt will do)
1/3 c best quality salsa (make sure it’s gluten-free)
pinch each table salt and fresh ground pepper
1 clove garlic, grated or smashed well
Heat grill outdoors or stovetop grill to medium-high. Brush with olive oil and lay asparagus on grill in an even layer. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Grill, turning once, for 8-10 minutes. Meantime, make dip:
In a small bowl, mix yogurt, salsa, salt and pepper, and garlic. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Place grilled asparagus on serving platter with a bowl of dip and enjoy.
Share with someone you love!
Happy New Year, friends………….as you sing any new or “auld” song,
Alyce–Could there be anything better leftover? Add a little butter.